Air France Flight 447

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Air France Flight 447

F-GZCP, the airplane that crashed, at Charles De Gaulle Airport in 2007.
Accident summary
Date June 1, 2009
Summary Pitot Tube blockage, pilot error leading to high altitude stall
Place Atlantic Ocean
Passengers 216
Crew 12
Injuries (non-fatal) 0
Fatalities 228
Survivors 0 (none)
Aircraft type Airbus A330-203
Airline/user Air France
Registration F-GZCP
Flew from Rio De Janeiro International Airport
Flying to Paris Charles De Gaulle International Airport
Flight path of AFF 447

Air France Flight 447 was a scheduled commercial flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France. The aircraft used was an Airbus A330 jet. On June 1, 2009, the A330 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, three hours and 30 minutes into the flight, killing all 228 people on board. Air France Flight 447 is currently the deadliest plane crash in Air France's history and the deadliest plane crash in the 21st century since the crash of American Airlines Flight 587, which occurred on November 12, 2001.

Aircraft[change | edit source]

F-GZCP was a Airbus A330-203.It has two General Electric CF6-80E1A3 engines.It was delivered new from Airbus, after having its first flight on 25th February 2005, and at the time of accident, it has flown for 18870 hours, taking off and landing 2644 times.[1]

Occupants[change | edit source]

As the flight was more than 10 hours long, there were 3 crew operating the airplane, so that each of them can take a break during the flight.[2]The flight's captain is Marc Dubois, while the co-pilots are Pierre-Cédric Bonin and David Robert.[3]There were 9 cabin crew onboard and 216 passengers.The nationalities of the passengers are:

Accident[change | edit source]

Air France Flight 447 took off from Rio de Janeiro International Airport at 19:29 Brazilian time to fly to Paris.[5]While flying at 35000 feet(about 10 km) at 2.06am UTC time, there was some turbulence, which made the co-pilots(the captain went to rest at 2am)turn the aircraft left.At 2.10am, the autopilot(a system that uses computer to control the airplane)disengages.The co-pilot flying the plane, Bonin, said that he had the control of the plane, before putting the plane in a steep climb, at a speed of more than 7000 feet/minute.This caused the plane's speed to drop to 52 knots, causing the stall warning to sound.

Meanwhile, the other co-pilot, Robert, repeatedly asked Bonin to descend. However, Bonin continued to pull the plane's nose up.The plane soon reaches the maximum altitude, 38000 feet, and starts to descend. However, co-pilot Bonin continue pulling the nose of the plane up.

As the plane continued to descend, the captain enters the cockpit.The co-pilots then reported that they've "lost control of the plane".As the plane descends, the captain shouted,"Pull up!", while Bonin answered, "But I've been pulling back on the stick(the joystick controls the airplane)all along!"

Finally, the Captain Marc Dubois realised that Bonin was causing the stall by pulling the nose up.He then ordered Bonin to put the nose down.However, at that height, it is almost impossible for the plane to get enough speed.The plane crashes into the Atlantic at about 02:14:28 UTC, killing everyone onboard.[3][6]

Searches[change | edit source]

At 2:20am, the Air Traffic Controller at DAKAR failed to contact Air France Flight 447, which was supposed to be in DAKAR airspace already.The controller then contacted Air France, who tried to contact Flight 447, but failed.[6]At that time, people thought that the plane had "disappeared".Ships and planes then searched the area near the last-known position of Flight 447, and by 6th June, the first bodies have been found, confirming everyone's guess that the plane has crashed.[7]

As the search for survivors end, the search for the plane's recorders then began.Underwater Vehicles are used to detect the recorders' signals that they give out for 30 days.However, at the end of the 30 days, there was not a sign of the recorders.Other searches in 2009 and 2010 also found nothing.

Then, in 2011, the search for recorders finally ended when an underwater vehicle found the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder on 26th April and 2nd May respectively.The recorders are sent to BEA(Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile, Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety)'s headquarters for analysis and arrived on 12th May.[8]

Investigations[change | edit source]

Before the recorders are found, the investigators from BEA could only use the debris found at the crash site.Using the debris, they concluded that the plane hit the water while descending rapidly.[6]

The hearing of the CVR(Cockpit Voice Recorder)clearly showed that minutes before the accident, the cockpit was in chaos.The two pilots tried to turn the plane in different directions, and that means one of them can "cancel out" the other's action on the plane.Also, when a pilot does something on the joystick, the other pilot will not feel anything at all.[6]

Also, at the time of the autopilot disengage, the pitot tubes, which calculate airspeed, is likely to be blocked by ice. This is because the pitot tube is the Goodrich part number 0851GR type, which is prone to the blockage over the Atlantic.Air France was replacing the pitot tubes on their Airbus A330/A340 airplanes.However, F-GZCP, the accident aircraft, has not been replaced with new pitot tubes.

It was also known that should the pitot tubes freeze and the autopilot disengage, the pilots should keep a constant height and wait for the ice to melt.[6]However, the pilots of flight 447 failed to do so, as co-pilot Bonin pulled the nose up.As the plane goes higher and higher, there is less air outside the plane, and the engines could not turn fast enough to speed up the plane.Finally, when it reached 38000 feet, the engines could not keep the plane climbing anymore, and the plane stalls.

Even after the plane stalls and the speed shown is correct, the pilots still didn't know that the plane stalled(Stall is when the plane starts descending instead of moving forward, usually because the plane is too slow). Only at a very low height, as mentioned above, did the crew finally realise that the plane has stalled and started descending. However, the plane could only pass ten degrees of pitch before crashing.[3]

In the Mayday episode that investigated the crash, an expert who was interviewed said, "The pilots thought that it was just a normal situation where you need to pull the nose up to climb.However, they didn't know that it was a stall situation which requires a nose-down to gain speed, so that the plane can fly normally again."[6]

Cause of Accident[change | edit source]

In BEA's final report, the causes are:

  • The pitot tubes freezing, causing incorrect airspeed shown
  • The pilots incorrectly flying the plane causing it to climb
  • The pilots' failure to recognise the stall warning, and
  • The pilots' failure to recognise a stall situation, and thus failure to make changes to recover from the stall.[9]

Aftermath[change | edit source]

The crash of flight AF447 resulted in:

  • Air France sped up the replacement of pitot tubes on their airplanes.
  • The flight number 447 was changed to 445.[10]
  • Airbus advising operators not to let their pilots switch on the autopilot when the pitot tube is blocked.
  • BBC releasing a one-hour documentary investigating the crash, and
  • Mayday, the popular television programme that investigate air crashes, releasing a 45-minutes documentary about the crash of flight 447.

References[change | edit source]

  1. "ASN Aircraft accident Airbus A330-203 São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago".Aviation 16th November 2013.
  2. "Final Report."Paragraph 1.5. Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile(BEA).Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "What Really Happened Aboard Air France 447."Popular Mechanics.Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  4. "The passenger list of Air France flight 447." 16th November 2013.
  5. "Final Report."Paragragh 1.1.Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile(BEA).Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "Air France 447: Vanished" Mayday. Season 12, Episode 13.
  7. "Bodies 'found' from missing plane". BBC News. 6 June 2009. Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  8. "Final Report.Paragragh 1.11.1"Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la sécurité de l'aviation civile(BEA).Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  9. "Final Report, Paragragh 3.2."Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses pour la Sécurité de l'Aviation Civile(BEA).Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  10. "Flight AF445." 20 November 2013.

Other websites[change | edit source]

Media related to Air France Flight 447 at Wikimedia Commons

Final Report of the crash in: